US, Canada Power Ahead Together on Climate Action

Statement by Ken Kimmell, president at the Union of Concerned Scientists

Published Mar 10, 2016

WASHINGTON (March 10, 2016)—Today, United States President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced plans to cut methane emissions from the oil and gas industry by 40-45 percent below 2012 levels by 2025, improve efficiency for heavy-duty vehicles, and increase protections for the Arctic and indigenous communities on the frontlines of climate change.

Below is a statement by Ken Kimmell, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). Kimmell was previously commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection and chairman of the board of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).

“This announcement from President Obama and Prime Minister Trudeau signals their strong commitment to work together to limit global warming and meet the goals adopted in the Paris Agreement last December. The pledge to cut methane emissions—a potent global warming gas—from the oil and gas sector, including from existing sources, is particularly noteworthy as these sectors are the largest industrial source of methane emissions in the U.S.

“Further, we appreciate the emphasis on making heavy-duty vehicles more efficient, to address this growing source of heat-trapping emissions and oil consumption. It’s also encouraging to hear that within the year both nations will release plans to significantly lower global warming emissions by mid-century, in keeping with the long-term goals outlined in the Paris agreement.

“The world is warming at an alarming rate, making today’s joint announcement by two key North American leaders most welcome. We’re currently experiencing the worst symptoms of this global calamity in the linchpin of the Earth’s climate system—the Arctic. In fact, this year’s annual sea ice maximum is expected to be one of the lowest on record. Because Arctic melt contributes to sea level rise, the fate of ice in nations like Greenland is the fate of people living on coastlines in the U.S., Canada and across the globe.

“We know distressing climate disruptions like these are caused by carbon pollution, including methane, produced by human activities. The scientific reality is that to stave off the worst impacts of climate change, we not only need to quickly transition away from fossil fuels towards cleaner alternatives, but also take emissions out of the atmosphere with tools like reforestation and sequestration. Much of the responsibility to follow through on the commitments announced today, and to continue to increase ambition on climate action, will fall to the next U.S. president.”

Other key aspects of today’s announcement include endorsing the World Bank’s Zero Routine Flaring by 2030 Initiative, committing to working jointly on Mission Innovation and other clean energy projects, and coordinating activities on regional carbon markets. Such commitments further underscore that the U.S. and Canada will strive to lead on addressing climate change while offering a framework for the G20 countries and the rest of the world.